The singer Amy Winehouse died a few days ago in London. From my understanding, she suffered from alcohol abuse and had a difficult time breaking away from the addiction. In the end, she lost her battle, and the world lost a talented young musician. She, like a number of others before her, died at the early age of 27.
I’ll go out on a limb here. I’ve never heard any of her music before. I was not a fan. To be honest, I rarely even followed her antics, other than peripherally hearing about them much like I heard about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and various other celebrity names that had very little relevance on my normal, daily life. But I did hear about her, and secretly, it always bothered me that everything I heard about her indicated that this was a young woman constantly on a projectory towards where it eventually led her. Many others would point out that they saw it coming, but no one ever really “sees” it coming, and unfortunately, she’s lost, and her talent will never have a chance to create again.
So why am I writing about this? Well, the amount of chatter about her death has started to really bother me. The blogosphere, and the conversations that come from the usual suspects has really gotten on my nerves. People can’t be satisfied with pointing out that her life developed towards a tragic end and then move on from there. Instead, whenever I read about her and saw “common people” comment, I couldn’t help but read how some people can be so really mean towards another human being, even if they may have disapproved of her antics, her lifestyle and/or her way of handling her demons.
Part of the fame of Amy Winehouse involves a direct tie to her battle with alcoholism. There really can’t be any disputing that. She’s one of those artists who created while suffering, and I would argue that a lot of her creativity probably needed a touch of her suffering to make it work. It’s sad, but there have been great artists who needed that sort of connection to develop the work they did. Van Gogh was that type. I suspect so was Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, and Ernest Hemingway. She may or may not have her own place in artistic history, or she might not, but at the same time there are a lot of people who were touched by her music, and I think it does a horrible disservice to their memories for people to go on message boards ridiculing them, her and the music she created. There’s a lot of hatred in this world, and it really makes itself seen whenever an event like this takes place.
Part of the tragedy of Winehouse’s death is that it came at time where it cannot be examined without someone else believing it has to be compared to something else. Salon has a great article on this, where the author Mary Williams talks about how people have ridiculed her death by comparing the tragedy to horrific events in Somalia and even the recent horrible actions of some crazy right-winger in Norway. At what point did we make it so that people cannot mourn the losses they feel without having to be felt that their tragedy is not worthy?
One of the things that started bothering me about this incident was on the weekend when I heard about her death. I was on itunes, and I noticed that the service was trying to milk its customers by selling her most popular work, as if paying Apple money would be “honoring” the artist rather than helping executives at Apple profit from her demise. Then I found out that Amazon was doing something similar, and after awhile you just start to shake your head and realize that we live in a very greedy society that will do anything to make a buck. At some point I really should stop being surprised.
The biggest tragedy to me is that her music might have been great, and I never bothered to pay attention when she was still around. I kind of had that same feeling with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I never got to know the music until after he died. Others, however, were big fans long before that happened.
For me, I’ll probably start listening to her work to see if I can ascertain the message she was trying to deliver. She was an artist, and for me it’s important to try to find out what the artist was trying to share. Sometimes, the message is brilliant, and trascends time and space. Other times, the artist just wanted to make you snap your fingers and maybe tap your foot to the beat. And sometimes, we forget that that is important, too. I’ll listen and try to figure it out. If her message is knowledge, I’ll try to discover it. If it was just to make me sway with the rhythmn, that’s okay, too. The tragedy is in never bothering to listen in the first place.